Here’s a basic and quick example from Jonah Lehrer’s book, “Imagine” on the subject of creativity.
Now free Associate. Say out loud what comes to mind when you think of “blue”.
“…there’s a 45 percent chance that your first answer will be sky. Your next answer will probably be ocean, followed by green…”
What is that? How can we be so predictable?
Free association is a quick exercise. Our brain hears “blue,” considers its definition, “a color” and then associates it with the obvious big blue dome we see overhead every day and have been connecting with blue since childhood flash cards. Now, say you consider the color’s definition to encompass “feelings”, why then, you may be more apt to cite a blues musician, or the name of an artist whose song makes you feel sad.
Add to your expanding definition by throwing in completely random associations, like say “King” or “vegetable” and you begin to further loosen otherwise firm ideas that constrict the spectrum of answers.
When you’re being creative and looking to produce something fresh, remember our very natural inclination to cycle through the familiar and common. Instead, have fun with your task. Before moving on, stop and consider other options. Jot ideas down, add random ones, and your brain will do the rest.